I’d like to share some of the gardens we’ve built – not just to show off the results of our work, which I’m very proud of – but to give you a window into our world and the process of designing and building a great garden.
We’ve designed and built a lot of gardens over the years, but choosing the first garden to present on this blog was easy. I immediately knew the garden at Villa del Greco in Montecito was the one because every aspect of the project, from the first meeting with the client to the ultimate realization of the garden, represents to a fine point the ebb and flow of what we do and how we relate with clients.
The house and garden were originally designed by the American architect and painter George Washington Smith. The core of the house was originally GWS’s studio, but the land was divided over time, changing the relationship of the remaining parts. The landscape wasn’t working anymore. Also, new elements—some less graceful than others—had been added to the property. Our client wanted to honor what Smith had done, bringing those design features to the forefront and expanding on them in a re-imagined version of the garden.
The garden was laid out with a formal primary axis which in modern days is anchored by a wall fountain and trellis on the north end and the house and adjacent courtyard on the south. The historic Black Acacia allee was shortened on both ends with the partitioning of the estate. The remnant of the allee forms the formal secondary axis of today’s garden.
When I first met the client, I learned that she was a very knowledgeable gardener and an anthropologist by training. She had researched the property’s history and was keen on honoring it. I knew right away that it would be a joy to work with her and that the project would be a jewel when finished, as our best projects always come out of a collaborative partnership, leading to the best possible garden for the space and for the client’s lifestyle.
Those early meetings are all-important. I listen for the many facets of our client’s needs and wants, some of which are shared overtly, and some only hinted at. There’s no way for a client to be completely sure what they want their garden to be at the outset, although in this case, she was precise and observant, with a sophisticated set of goals. She knew where she wanted to spend time in the garden and knew which colors she wanted to see blooming.
We developed a list of issues to address, chief among them creating a clear approach to the front door (pedestrian entry was through the driveway gate), an inviting courtyard at the front door (rather than the driveway coming smack up to the front stoop), restoring all original hardscape still existing, culling out elements that weren’t in keeping with period architecture (most notably two fountains) and a general all-round planting face lift.
Hope you enjoyed Villa del Greco!
Sneak peak into our next blog post…